How to Build a Customer Service Operations Team that Elevates your Support
To deliver the perfect customer experience, activities such as creating efficient processes and workflows, quality management, planning shift schedules, etc. are absolutely critical. These come under the umbrella of customer service operations, a core capability that helps scale and improve the level of customer support offered by your company.
So who ensures support operation tasks are ideated and executed well so that your customer service standards do not drop? The answer, as you might have already guessed, is the customer service operations team.
What is customer service operations or support operations?
The support operations (also known as customer operations) team sets the foundation for the customer service team to perform at their best. The support operations team undertakes responsibilities such as agent hiring and training, shift management, and knowledge management to help optimize the productivity of customer support while eliminating any possible roadblocks that could cause bottlenecks in performance.
A support operations team aren’t on the frontlines dealing with customers, nor are they supervising agents or managing accounts. They provide insights and analysis into the workings of the support team and make the necessary decisions to ensure its continuous improvement.
3 Reasons customer operations is important
#1. Bring order to chaos
At some stage in every company, there is a need to bring structure and coherence to a growing support team. By forming a customer service operations team, you can create a more organized way of working. With established processes and protocols, and a clearer definition of agent roles, there is a smoother and more efficient workflow to solving every customer problem.
#2. An efficient way to scale
With business growth comes a higher volume of tickets, and handling that volume requires additional resources. An ad-hoc method of hiring, in reaction to rising demand, is unsustainable and can lead to last-minute scrambles to try and fill the gap between supply and demand. Therefore, building a support operations team becomes crucial to scale efficiently and in a predictive rather than impromptu manner.
#3 Improved productivity and control over performance
A primary objective of the customer operations team is to ensure there is consistent improvement in the overall performance of the support team. By having checks and balances on both internal and external performance indicators, your support operations team can give you important insights, based on which you can help improve your team’s productivity and performance.
Roles and responsibilities of a support operations team
A well-structured support operations team should ideally be made up of members, each with their own specific expertise and responsibilities, and the group as a whole will own a set of collective responsibilities.
Individual member roles:
#1 Support operations manager/ Head of Operations:
The role of an operations manager is the most strategic and crucial in the customer operations team. The person taking on this mantle has to make tactical decisions based on several factors such as daily workload, support metrics, the number of agents, etc. to help drive the support team forward. For example, analyzing spike in call volumes during a month and analyzing whether it requires more agents on those particular periods is something the operations manager has to take a call on.
Their responsibilities span workforce management, forecasting, shift management and planning, reporting and benchmarking, overall quality management of customer support, knowledge management, etc.
#2 Systems Analyst/Operations specialist:
The operations specialist or systems analyst is responsible for several jobs that require regular attention and analysis, ranging from assigning shifts to load balancing. They also have to keep track of critical metrics and take care of ticket queue management.
#3 Support trainer/Process trainer
Depending upon the organization structure, there can be overlap between some of the roles of a support trainer and a systems analyst. But primarily a support or process trainer is responsible for agent onboarding and training. This also includes preparing the training material as well as organizing the sessions for new hires.
Collectively these are the functions/responsibilities the team is in charge of:
#1. Hiring and training
Scaling the customer support team and meeting the resource requirements to ensure no agent is overloaded with work is an essential task of the customer service operations team. It requires building a comprehensive hiring plan that is backed up by a thorough forecasting report. This also comprises creating the right training material around customer support and the processes involved, as well as taking up upskilling programs and creating forecasting reports.
#2 Workforce management
Based on the type of business and the frequency of customer complaints throughout the day, the right shifts and breaks need to be assigned by the support operations team. Creating the ideal shift schedule means balancing both workload and breaks while also making sure the busiest work hours have enough agents to handle it. Shift management also involves choosing the right type of shift schedules and making sure it matches the customer support model your team is using.
#3. Improving processes and workflows
A big reason for customer operations to be implemented is to enhance what methods you already have in place and enforce workflows where it’s necessary. Having your support completely streamlined helps the team focus on delivering an exceptional experience rather than be bogged down by searching for information or not knowing the next steps or procedures to standard tasks. Tiered support is an example of a system that clearly defines who is in charge of what responsibilities.
#4. Build/Procure the right tools to enhance quality
Tools and technology are part and parcel of every business function. Acquiring the right tools and building internal ones can vastly improve the speed of tasks but also produce a higher quality of output. For example, most support teams use a helpdesk to manage requests and track issues. You can also bring in certain automation tools such as chatbots to help agents with ticket deflection.
Tracking performance metrics and customer support KPIs is an important responsibility of the support operations team. Deriving insights from these numbers aids decision making and ensures the team is focused on improving the right areas of support.
Steps to build a support operations team
So how do you build a support team from the ground up? It’s all about hiring the right people and assigning the right team structure. Here are 4 general steps to follow:
#1 Hire an experienced support operations manager
An experienced operations manager with the know-how of improving support team performance is the first step to building your support team. The core principle of a customer service operations team is performance improvement, which makes this position extremely important.
#2 Recruit the rest of the team
Based on the personnel you already have, and the strength of your support team, move a few members who have the right skills such as reporting and metrics, understanding various support models and shift management to the support ops team. You could also hire externally, but having people who know how your support team runs can give you a head start.
#3 Assign roles and responsibilities
This step is simple enough. Based on skillset, ensure the right people are given the right roles from operations specialists to process trainers and support trainers.
#4 Setup access management for tools
Provide members with appropriate tools such as analytics, and shift management but ensure the access is restricted based on role and hierarchy.
Support operations is a catalyst for Customer Service
The support operations team is responsible for streamlining internal processes and ensuring the smooth operation of all tasks. But more importantly, they elevate the responsiveness and quality of customer service as a whole. The difference between having a customer operations team versus continuing to run without one is significant because it has a tangible impact on customer experience. Customer operations is the catalyst for your support team to achieve the next level of customer service.